The MLB trade deadline is July 31 at 4 p.m. ET, but a number of teams did not wait until the last minute to complete deals.
With two months remaining in the regular season, a high percentage of organizations still believe they are in the hunt for a playoff spot. As a result, these squads have turned into buyers in an attempt to fill one or more major needs to become true contenders.
Although more transactions are likely to occur on the final day before the non-waiver deadline, here is a look at the deals that went down in the days prior with full grades for each.
Cubs Acquire from Red Sox LHP Felix Doubront for PTBNL
Most deadline trades involve at least one team fighting for a playoff spot, but both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are in last place in their respective divisions.
Still, the Cubs made a move to acquire 26-year-old pitcher Felix Doubront for a player to be named later, as confirmed by the team's official Twitter account:
Doubront has displayed plenty of potential early in his career, winning 11 games in each of the past two years as a starter. However, his effectiveness greatly reduced when he moved into the bullpen this season.
Red Sox manager John Farrell explained that his role caused problems, via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago:
I don’t think he’s disinterested. There are others who have moved ahead of him in the rotation and opportunities presented themselves coming out of the bullpen. But if the role is not sitting well and affecting his pitching, there needs to be a different focus to realizing his potential and capabilities.
Doubront should now be able to get a chance at a fresh start for the Cubs. With his talent and youth, he has plenty of time to turn his career around.
Even better for Chicago is that the return for the trade is not expected to be too great, according to Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago:
The Red Sox will get a low level prospect after Rule 5 draft. Doubront def a buy low hope for the best guy— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 30, 2014
This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs, which is a good thing for a team in desperate need of young pitching.
On the other hand, the Red Sox might have given up too soon on a player still under team control for a few more years. His recent struggles are reason enough to trade him, but this is clearly an example of selling too low.
Grades: Boston B-, Cubs A-
Indians Trade RHP Justin Masterson to Cardinals for OF James Ramsey
After posting a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts in 2014 while dealing with injuries, Justin Masterson did not represent much value for the Cleveland Indians, especially as a pending free agent this offseason. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports previously reported that they were trying hard to deal the 29-year-old pitcher:
Sources: Indians very willing to move Justin Masterson. FA to be due back Friday from DL. Looking for young, controllable starting pitching.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2014
The organization was able to find a trade partner in the St. Louis Cardinals, as it reported on Twitter:
James Ramsey does not represent tons of upside as a 24-year-old outfielder in Double-A. However, he is hitting .300 this season and should be able to at least reach the majors, even if it is as a bench player.
Considering Masterson was not helping Cleveland much, this is a good way to get some value for a player on his way out.
Meanwhile, this is also a good deal for the Cardinals as they are able to bolster their rotation going forward. The squad has dealt with numerous injuries to the pitching staff and can use an experienced player who can provide an upgrade.
Even though Masterson has struggled this season, he is only a year removed from posting a 3.45 ERA with 14 wins while earning an All-Star appearance. If he can regain some of his ability from last season, he could be a steal for the Cardinals.
No matter what happens, both sides made a smart move in this trade.
Grades: Indians A, Cardinals A
Dodgers Get 2B Darwin Barney from Cubs for RHP Jonathan Martinez
The Cubs were quite active this week, dealing Darwin Barney for what at the time was a player to be named later. The Los Angeles Dodgers later confirmed Jonathan Martinez would be on the other side of the trade:
The Dodgers optioned Darwin Barney to Albuquerque and completed their trade for Barney, sending Great Lakes P Jonathan Martinez to the Cubs.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 30, 2014
Of course, Jesse Spector of Sporting News speculated on the returning player before it was announced:
Cubs trade Darwin Barney to Dodgers for a player to be named later, most likely Darwin Barney after the Dodgers realize he's Darwin Barney.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) July 28, 2014
Barney batted just .208 in a full season in 2013 and then managed a .230 batting average before being sent down to Triple-A. He is a great fielder at second base, but that does not make up for his lack of ability at the plate.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are already set in the middle infield with Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Barney is not even going to help out the major league club:
#Dodgers option IF Darwin Barney to AAA.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 30, 2014
The deal would make sense if Los Angeles was keeping him as a late-game defensive replacement, but he is obviously not needed in this role.
On the other hand, Martinez has shown good potential as a 20-year-old pitcher in Single-A. He posted a 3.47 ERA in 19 starts for the Great Lakes Loons and has done a good job of keeping walks low.
Even if Martinez does not become a star, this should still end up being a quality trade for the Cubs, who have more than enough middle infielders ready to play in the future.
Grades: Los Angeles C-, Chicago A
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